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Helping Borneo's indigenous people fight for their forests

(01/28/2013) In the 1980's and 1990's more timber was removed from the rainforests Borneo than from all of Africa and South America combined. This tragic loss of habitat, with its attendant loss of wildlife and indigenous cultures, has gone largely unrecognized in the United States. Joe Lamb, a Berkeley-based writer, activist, and arborist, has worked to change that.


In the kingdom of the black panther

(01/15/2013) The black panther has a mythical aura: Rudyard Kipling chose the animal for one of his heroes in the Jungle Book, in the 1970s it became the symbol of an African-American socialist party, while comic guru Stan Lee selected the stunning feline for his first black superhero. But the real black panther isn't an actual species, instead it's a rare dark pigmentation found most commonly in leopards, but also occasionally in jaguars and other wild cats. The rarity of the black panther—not to mention its striking appearance—has added to their mystery. However, recent studies have found that black panthers, in this case 'black leopards,' are astoundingly common in one part of the world: the Malayan peninsula.


Malaysian candidate pledges to drop controversial dam in Sarawak if elected

(01/14/2013) Malaysia's current opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has pledged to cancel the controversial Baram Dam in Sarawak if upcoming general elections sweep him into the office of Prime Minister. Ibrahim made the announcement while visiting the state of Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, over the weekend, according to the indigenous rights NGO, Bruno Manser Fund.


African governments and China must respond as ivory trade reaches preposterous proportions

(12/13/2012) Royal Malaysian Customs have just announced the seizure of 24 tons of ivory in Port Klang. This is the largest-ever seizure of ivory in transit through the country. The 1,500 pieces of ivory came from over 750 elephants and were exported from Togo, a tiny west African country that has fewer than 200 elephants. The ivory was hidden in containers containing wooden crates that were built to look like stacks of sawn timber. The two crates were shipped from the port of Lomé in Togo, and were going to China via Algeria, Spain and Malaysia. Richard Leakey, the former Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who set Kenya’s ivory stockpile alight in 1989, responded to the announcement.


Malaysia intercepts 24 tons of elephant ivory being smuggled to China

(12/12/2012) Malaysian authorities made their largest-ever ivory bust after uncovering 24 tons of 'white gold' hidden in crates designed to look like stacks of sawn wood.


Rare jungle cat filmed for only the second time

(12/12/2012) A biologist on vacation in Malaysian Borneo caught one of the world's rarest cats on video for only the second time, reports the BBC.


China plans over 300 dam projects worldwide

(12/10/2012) A new report by the NGO, International Rivers, takes an in-depth look at the role China is playing in building mega-dams worldwide. According to the report, Chinese companies are involved in 308 hydroelectric projects across 70 nations. While dams are often billed as "green energy," they can have massive ecological impacts on rivers, raise local conflict, and even expel significant levels of greenhouse gases when built in the tropics.


Photos: Chinese leopard wins camera trap contest

(11/27/2012) The third annual BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera Trap Photo of the Year contest has produced some stunning and surprising images, including a snow leopard sticking its tongue out, a rare giant pangolin, and wrestling monitor lizards. But the winner this year was the perfect shot of a young leopard in China.


Penan suspend dam blockade, give government one month to respond to demands

(11/15/2012) Members of the Penan tribe have suspended their month long blockade of the Murum dam in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, reports Survival International. However, according to the indigenous group the fight is not over: the departing Penan said the Sarawak government had one month to respond to demands for sufficient compensation for the dam's impact or face another blockade. Over 300 Penan people participated in the blockade, which stopped traffic leading to the construction site.


Borneo may lose half its orangutans to deforestation, hunting, and plantations

(11/13/2012) Borneo will likely lose half of its orangutans if current deforestation and forest conversion trends continue, warns a comprehensive new assessment by an international team of researchers. The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, overlays orangutan distribution with land use regulations in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo. Borneo has suffered high rates of deforestation, logging, and forest conversion for industrial plantations in recent decades, endangering the world's largest surviving populations of orangutans.


Sarawak minister tells clean energy activists to 'stop breathing'

(11/13/2012) A top minister in the Malaysian state of Sarawak has told activists campaigning for cleaner energy to 'stop breathing', reports The Borneo Post.


Development halted in crucial wildlife corridor in Malaysia

(11/07/2012) Kenyir Wildlife Corridor in northeast Malaysia is teeming with wildlife: elephants, gibbons, tigers, tapirs, and even black panthers (melanistic leopards) have been recorded in the 60 kilometer (37 mile) stretch of forest. In fact, researchers have recorded over 40 mammal species (see species list below), including 15 threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List. When these findings were presented by scientists to the Terengganu state government action followed quickly: all development projects have been halted pending a government study.


Micro-hydro and decentralized green energy goals set in Borneo

(11/04/2012) The first ever meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People's Assembly (SEAREPA) ended with agreement on 12 future projects, including developing community micro-hydro power and pushing for new policies on decentralized renewable energy in the region. Held in Malaysian state of Sabah on the island, the meeting brought together 130 people from some 80 different groups.


HSBC bank funding large-scale rainforest destruction and invasion of indigenous lands in Borneo, alleges report

(11/02/2012) HSBC has earned tens of millions financing the destruction of rainforests and invasion of indigenous land in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, alleges an explosive new report from Global Witness.


After defeating coal plant, Borneo hosts renewable energy meeting

(10/31/2012) Last year, a coalition of environmentalists and locals won a David-versus-Goliath battle against a massive coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. After facing a protracted campaign—including expert analysis of green energy options for Sabah—the state government announced it was scuttling plans to build the coal plant on a beach overlooking the Coral Triangle. Now, victorious grassroots campaigners are hosting the inaugural meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People’s Assembly (SEAREPA), bringing 80 organizations together to discuss green energy options across southeast Asia.


Is your Halloween candy linked to rainforest destruction?

(10/11/2012) A campaign by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hopes to raise awareness about the link between Halloween candy and deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Employing the images of Critically Endangered orangutans, the zoo urges consumer to only buy candy containing eco-certified palm oil by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).


Indigenous blockade expands against massive dam in Sarawak

(10/08/2012) Indigenous people have expanded their blockade against the Murum dam in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, taking over an additional road to prevent construction materials from reaching the dam site. Beginning on September 26th with 200 Penan people, the blockade has boomed to well over 300. Groups now occupy not just the main route to the dam site, but an alternative route that the dam's contractor, the China-located Three Gorges Project Corporation, had begun to use.


Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil hits 10 year mark

(10/04/2012) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is holding its tenth annual meeting later this month. The initiative, which aims to improve the social and environmental performance of palm oil production through a certification standard, has advanced considerably during that time, moving from an idea to a reality: RSPO-certified palm oil now accounts for 12 percent of global palm oil production. Yet the RSPO is not without controversy. Some palm oil companies say its criteria are too costly to adopt and are therefore discriminatory, while environmental critics argue its bar for "sustainable" palm oil is too low and the loopholes allow producers to claim membership even if they aren't actually producing certified palm oil across all their holdings. Nonetheless the RSPO has support from many of the world's largest palm oil producers, traders, and consumers as well as the biggest NGOs.


200 indigenous block road to dam in Sarawak

(09/29/2012) 200 indigenous men and women are blockading shipments of construction materials to a dam site in Malaysian Borneo to protest the impact of the hydroelectric project on their traditional forest home, reports the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a Switzerland-based group that campaigns on behalf of forest people of Sarawak.


NGO: Malaysian leader worth $15 billion despite civil-servant salary; timber corruption suspected

(09/19/2012) Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has headed the Malaysian state of Sarawak for over 30 years, is worth $15 billion according to a new report by the Bruno Manser Fund. The report, The Taib Timber Mafia, alleges that Taib has used his position as head-of-state to build up incredible amounts of wealth by employing his family or political nominees to run the state's logging, agriculture, and construction businesses. Some environmental groups claim that Sarawak has lost 90 percent of its primary forests to logging, while indigenous tribes in the state have faced the destruction of their forests, harassment, and eviction.


Learning to live with elephants in Malaysia

(09/18/2012) Humans and elephants have a lot in common: both are highly intelligent, intensely social, and both are capable of having a massive impact on their local environments. Given their similarities, it might not be surprising that elephants and human have often run afoul of one another. Conflict between these two great species has probably been going on for thousands of years, but as human populations have grown dramatically, elephant populations have been crippled and forced into smaller-and-smaller pockets. No-where is this more true than in Southeast Asia.


The rainforest visited by Prince William and Kate (pictures)

(09/17/2012) On Saturday Prince William and his wife Catherine visited Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, Malaysia as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations. In so doing, the royal couple saw one of the last surviving tracts of relatively pristine lowland rainforest in Borneo.


Photos: camera traps capture wildlife bonanza in Borneo forest corridor

(09/10/2012) Camera traps placed in a corridor connecting two forest fragments have revealed (in stunning visuals) the importance of such linkages for Borneo's imperiled mammals and birds. Over 18 months, researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) have photographed wildlife utilizing the corridor located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.


Swiss to investigate UBS for alleged money laundering for Malaysian rainforest logging

(09/04/2012) Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into whether banking giant UBS laundered money on behalf of a Malaysian politician who allegedly received illegal payments for allowing logging in Borneo, reports the Associated Press.


Sabah protects 700 sq mi of rainforest in Borneo

(08/30/2012) Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, has reclassified 183,000 hectares (700 sq km) of forest zoned for logging concessions as protected areas.


Burning forests in Southeast Asia increases mortality rates in the region

(08/13/2012) Clearing forests and other vegetation with fire in Southeast Asia can kill, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The research found that fire-induced air pollution, including fine particulates and a rise in ozone, could be linked to thousands of deaths during El Nino years when dry conditions worsen human-set fires. The pollution was found to be worst over Malaysia and Indonesia, the latter where the vast majority of the fires are set.


Scientists discover beautiful new insect species after stumbling upon photos on Flickr

(08/09/2012) Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of lacewing insect after stumbling upon a series of photos posted on Flickr®, according to a paper published in the journal ZooKeys.


New Malaysian snail named after late conservation mentor

(07/30/2012) Researchers have discovered a new snail, which is so unusual that it has been granted its own genus: Kenyirus. To date, the mysterious forest snail, found in Malaysia's Kenyir Forest, is only known from its unique shell.


Panda vs. orangutans: With native species at risk, Malaysia's panda bear project a boondoggle

(07/20/2012) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's plan to spend nearly $16 million (50 million Malaysian ringgits) to lease two baby pandas from China for ten years is a waste of money and resources at a time when its own native species are suffering from a range of threats, warned a leading Malaysian conservationist in an open letter.


Industrial logging leaves a poor legacy in Borneo's rainforests

(07/17/2012) For most people "Borneo" conjures up an image of a wild and distant land of rainforests, exotic beasts, and nomadic tribes. But that place increasingly exists only in one's imagination, for the forests of world's third largest island have been rapidly and relentlessly logged, burned, and bulldozed in recent decades, leaving only a sliver of its once magnificent forests intact. Flying over Sabah, a Malaysian state that covers about 10 percent of Borneo, the damage is clear. Oil palm plantations have metastasized across the landscape. Where forest remains, it is usually degraded. Rivers flow brown with mud.


Scientists propose a new way forward on orangutan conservation

(07/16/2012) Orangutans are in dire need of a revised conservation approach, according to a new study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. While the plight of the species is widely recognized within the conservation community—receiving international attention in the form of scientific research, funding, and NGO efforts—the authors argue that "there has been frustratingly little progress."


Charts: deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, 2000-2010

(07/15/2012) Indonesia and Malaysia lost more than 11 million hectares (42,470 square miles) of forest between 2000 and 2010, according to a study published last year in the journal Global Change Biology. The area is roughly the size of Denmark or the state of Virginia. The bulk of forest loss occurred in lowland forests, which declined by 7.8 million hectares or 11 percent on 2000 cover. Peat swamp forests lost the highest percentage of cover, declining 19.7 percent. Lowland forests have historically been first targeted by loggers before being converted for agriculture. Peatlands are increasingly converted for industrial oil palm estates and pulp and paper plantations.


Building indigenous resilience in the face of land-grabbing, deforestation in Malaysian Borneo

(07/10/2012) In the 1980s images of loincloth-clad tribesmen blockading blocking logging roads in Malaysian Borneo shocked the world. But while their protests captured the spotlight momentarily, Borneo's forests continued to be destroyed at rapid rates, undermining traditional communities that are dependent on these ecosystems for food, shelter, medicine, clean water, and spiritual inspiration. Nomadic tribes are now but a memory in Borneo, but other tribal groups continue to fight for their forests by seeking legal recognition of their lands and blocking destructive projects, including oil palm plantations, logging operations, and large-scale hydroelectric projects. Helping them is The Borneo Project, a Berkeley-based non-profit that works in partnership with indigenous communities and the small non-profits that support them.


Animal picture of the day: Sunda clouded leopard in Borneo

(07/09/2012) The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) is the largest wild cat in Borneo and is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Due to their nocturnal and cryptic habits they are seldom observed and very little is known of their basic ecology and distribution. This large Clouded leopard was photographed by remote camera trap in Malua BioBank as part of the Bornean Banteng Program which studies the rare banteng (Bos javanicus lowi).


In pictures: Rainforests to palm oil

(07/02/2012) In late May I had the opportunity to fly from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo to Imbak Canyon and back. These are some of my photos. Historically Borneo was covered by a range of habitats, including dense tropical rainforests, swampy peatlands, and natural grasslands. But its lowland forests have been aggressively logged for timber and then converted for oil palm plantations.


Picture: Blue-tongued monitor lizard

(07/01/2012) Water monitor photographed in Sabah, on the island of Borneo.


Agricultural area larger than Texas has been 'land-grabbed'

(06/26/2012) Compiling over 1,000 foreign land deals from 2000-2010, a new report finds that 702,000 square kilometers (271,043 square miles) of agricultural land worldwide has been sold-off to foreign governments or international corporations, an area larger than Texas. The report by the Worldwatch Institute finds that such land deals, often referred to as "land grabbing," have declined since a peak in 2009, but still remain high.


Historic birth for the Sumatran rhino

(06/24/2012) After two miscarriages and a pregnancy that lasted 15 months, Ratu, a female Sumatra rhino, has given birth to a healthy male calf, conservationists happily announced this weekend. The birth at a rhino sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra is the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and the best reproductive rhino science in the world. This is the first captive birth in Indonesia, and only the fourth captive birth for the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) in the last hundred years. The successful birth brings new hope for one of the world's rarest mammals: less than 200 Sumatra rhinos are thought to survive in the world.


Indonesian fires trigger haze alerts in Malaysia

(06/24/2012) Fires set for land clearing in Indonesia triggered health warnings in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia last week, reports the Associated Press.


Traditional belief in mythical beasts help protect forests

(06/19/2012) Cultural practices including beliefs in mythical beasts and animals that dance have helped maintain forests in the West African country of the Gambia and Malaysian Borneo, said a researcher from Oxford University speaking at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Bonito, Brazil.


Sarawak tribe calls on German company to walk away from controversial dam

(06/19/2012) Indigenous people from the Malaysian state of Sarawak have sent a letter to the German company, Fichtner GmbH & Co. KG, demanding that the consulting group halt all activities related to the hugely-controversial Baram dam, reports the NGO Bruno Manser Fund. Critics of the dam and it parent project known as the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative, say the hydroelectric dam will displace 20,000 people and flood 40,000 hectares of primary rainforest.


Palm oil giant prepares for second-largest IPO of 2012

(06/13/2012) Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd. is readying a $3.2 billion public offering to fund expansion of its palm oil business, reports The Wall Street Journal.


Broadcaster for Radio Free Sarawak goes missing in Malaysia

(05/31/2012) Peter John Jaban, a broadcaster on Radio Free Sarawak better known by his on-air pseudonym Papa Orang Utan, was arrested on Thursday Kota Kinabalu International airport, while attempting to board a plane to Miri, Sarawak, reports The Sarawak Report.


Featured video: baby hornbills grow up in a jar

(05/29/2012) A researcher in Malaysia has captured footage of Oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) raising chicks in an earthen jar in the Kenyir rainforest of Malaysia. The first video shows the father Oriental pied hornbill feeding the chicks, while the second shows a chick leaving its nest.


Blue tarantula, walking cactus, and a worm from Hell: the top 10 new species of 2011

(05/23/2012) A sneezing monkey, a blue tarantula, and an extinct walking cactus are just three of the remarkable new species listed in the annual Top Ten New Species put together by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. This year's list includes a wide-variety of life forms from fungi to flower and invertebrate to primate.


$90 million in corrupt logging money linked to Malaysian Chief Minister, UBS bank

(04/24/2012) Documents under investigation show that around $90 million may have been laundered from logging companies in Sabah to UBS bank accounts linked to high-ranking Malaysian officials, according to the Sarawak Report. Critics of the government say the money is likely kickbacks from logging companies to government officials for the right to log in the state's declining rainforests. Such transactions are alleged to occur typically in the run up to elections.


Malaysia to restrict trade in big-eyed sugar gliders

(04/20/2012) Malaysia will tighten controls on the trade in sugar gliders, a big-eyed gliding possum increasingly popular in the pet trade in Southeast Asia and the United States, according to the country's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).


How a crippled rhino may save a species

(04/09/2012) On December 18th, 2011, a female Sumatran rhino took a sudden plunge. Falling into a manmade pit trap, the rhino may have feared momentarily that her end had come, but vegetation cushioned her fall and the men that found her were keen on saving her, not killing her. Little did she know that conservationists had monitored her since 2006, and for her trappers this moment had been the culmination of years of planning and hope. A few days later she was being airlifted by helicopter to a new home. Puntung, as she has become called, was about to enter a new chapter in her life, one that hopefully will bring about a happy ending for her species.


Mining cancellation throws wrench into Sarawak dam-building spree

(03/27/2012) The world's third largest mining company, Rio Tinto, and a local financial and construction firm, Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), have cancelled plans for a $2 billion aluminum smelter to be constructed in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The cancellation calls into question Sarawak's plan to build a dozen massive dams—known as the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative—that were proposed, in part, to provide power to the massive aluminum smelter. However, the mega-dam proposal has been heavily criticized for its impact on Sarawak's rivers, rainforest and indigenous people.


Picture of the day: tarsier rescued from palm oil plantation

(03/20/2012) Earlier this month, biologists with Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo, found and rescued a tarsier from a locally owned palm oil plantation. "For a day, we kept the animal in a cage at the field centre and fed him with insects", explained Alice Miles, a Cardiff University student leading a project on tarsier and slow loris ecology at DGFC.



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